Kate Josephs: Sheffield Council CEO goes on annual leave as committee is set up to consider further action

Sheffield Council’s chief executive has gone on “annual leave” this week while councillors set up a committee to discuss the drinks party she attended during Covid restrictions.

By Lucy Ashton, Local Democracy Reporter
Tuesday, 18th January 2022, 12:45 pm

Kate Josephs will be on leave for the rest of the week as a cross-party committee looks at whether to take any action against her.

Council Leader Terry Fox said: “Because of Kate Josephs’ senior role as chief executive, we need to set up a cross-party committee to consider what steps, if any, should be taken next.

“I have heard strong and emotional views from across the city. I absolutely understand the reaction after all that Sheffield has been through these last couple of years.

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A picture of Kate Josephs outside 10 Downing Street that she posted on Twitter on December 18, 2020, after leaving her former Government role.

“We now need to let the committee carry out this work, and we also continue to await the outcome of the Cabinet Office’s wider report. There is nothing further to add at this time.”

The council says there is a prescribed statutory procedure when dealing with a role at this level in local government and it is not something that the Leader or Executive can deal with alone. It says a cross-party committee must be set up.

The committee will meet in private and will be made up of a small number of councillors from all parties, including at least one who is an Executive member.

The council said: “We expect the committee to begin work in the coming days. While we cannot yet know how long it will take, we expect it to move at pace. We expect that it will also take in the findings of the Sue Gray report.”

Sheffield Council's chief executive Kate Josephs has gone on "annual leave" this week while councillors set up a committee to discuss whether to take action following her drinks party during Covid restrictions.

It’s unclear what will happen next week and whether Ms Josephs will return from annual leave.

The CEO and Cabinet Office party

Senior civil servant Sue Gray is currently carrying out an investigation into alleged Covid rule breaking in Downing Street, government departments and “credible allegations relating to other gatherings”.

Ms Josephs hosted leaving drinks at the Cabinet Office on December 17, 2020 where she was working as director general of the Covid Taskforce.

She released a statement and apologised just minutes before a national newspaper published the story on Friday.

She had repeatedly denied to local journalists that she had been involved in any Downing Street parties.

Her statement said she had gathered with colleagues that were at work that day but it was later revealed an email was sent to 40 guests.

Coun Fox issued an initial statement saying he was “deeply disappointed” but has been unavailable for comment since.

Liberal Democrat Leader Shaffaq Mohammed and Green Party Leader Douglas Johnson both declined to comment.

But Lord Paul Scriven, a Lib Dem peer, was robust in his criticism and has called for her to resign.

He said: “She broke the rules she helped set, she attended a pre organised drinks party on the day 567 people died and then only apologised because she got found out.

“These are not the ethical requirements of a council chief executive. She has undermined the name of the city.”